Imágenes de página

confined to the petty springs of action which guide him in that contracted world. It is only in the great sphere of existence, that manners are disregarded for matter; and natural emotions held more sacred than conventional forms. That mode of existence cannot be established, where all the powers of man are not roused into action; and where human beings are not bound together by the ties of mutual dependency, inspiring mutual benevolence. Wherever social good stands the most in need of the assistance of men, and derives from it the greatest advantages, there it is that the promoter of its prosperity is the most known and valued. But luxurious France—France, that, to be placed beyond the reach of anxiety concerning either its safety or its subsistence, does not stand so much in need of human toil, as northern nations do, is not taught to value men, their faculties, their feelings, their intellects, their souls, so highly, or to study them so deeply; and tragedy, which cannot subsist without the profoundest knowledge of all these, follows, in the hands of the French, the lot of all human concerns there, and is confined to artificial forms and postures, to measured accents and sententious sorrows. Tragedy indeed, in its most dignified and extensive sense, is a conception beyond the grasp of French intellect; which is content with copying a copy, and throwing the drapery of dramatic poetry not on living shoulders, but on marble imitation; not on man, but on a moving statue. With them there is no nature, but that which was current in the court of Louis Quatorze, no gardens but those of Le Notre, no Hercules but in a full bottomed perriwig. The state of things however which has deprived the French of all the great resources of tragedy has made them masters of two provinces of the drama; but as this article is already of too much extent to conclude the subject at present, we must reserve it for another opportunity.

Art. III.— History of the Peninsular War. By Robert Southey, Esq. LL.D. Poet Laureate, Honorary Member of the Royal Spanish Academy, &c. &c. Vol.1. 4to. pp. 806. 1823. T N whatever point of view we regard the Peninsular war, it is fraught with instruction and interest. While the perfidy with which the French commenced, and the atrocious system upon which they pursued their invasion are unparalleled in the history ot civilized nations; the deep retribution which overtook their leader and themselves, their loss and humiliation, their suffering and shame are equally unexampled and fearful. Nor are the circumstances of the resistance less extraordinary than those of the aggression; whether we consider the total disorganization to which

D 3 the the kingdom of Spain was reduced; the inveterate abuses which had been entailed on it by the imbecility of its old despotism; the inexperience, the weakness, and the errors of the successive governments which grew out of the necessities of the times; or the devoted patriotism and endurance of the people, which bore them through these complicated disadvantages. And for us as Englishmen, the chivalrous part which our country bore in the contest, and the cheering and wholesome reflections which may be deduced from its successful termination, are calculated to bestow on .the subject peculiar and lasting attractions. The Peninsular war is not only the most glorious recorded in our annals, but that also which, in its daring onset, in the vicissitudes of its chequered progress, and in its victorious consummation, affords the most satisfactory proof that, so long as the people of these kingdoms shall be united in a good cause, and directed by an enlightened and vigorous government, they need not dread the encounter with any power, however mighty, however skilfully wielded, however habituated to conquest, however indifferent to crime.

We believe it has been pretty generally felt, that the task of compiling the contemporary history of this memorable war could have been appropriated more filly to no individual than to Mr. Southey. His acknowledged talents and experience as an historical writer, his unwearied industry and patient research, his engaging and forcible style, his familiarity with the languages and the literature, the annals and the customs, the people and the country of Portugal and Spain, pointed him out as better qualified than any author of our days for this most useful and honourable undertaking; and it was certain that, as soon as he should engage in it, the accumulated materials, the highest sources of original information would be thrown open to his inspection. From this combination of advantages, the British nation expected the production of a literary monument worthy of the holy cause, the stupendous exertions, and the splendid glories which it designed to commemorate; and the examination of the volume before us, justifies us in holding forth a promise that this expectation will not be disappointed. Mr. Southey has enriched our annals with the first portion of a work which—though not exempt from blemishes—will be found to yield to none of his former prose writings in execution, while it eminently surpasses them all in importance and interest.—We cannot adopt any better or more convenient mode of submitting the contents of the volume to our readers, and, at the same time, of passing our strictures upon its merits and defects, than by compressing into the present Article an abstract of the most prominent events which it records.

Mr. Southey has naturally prefaced the account of the occurrences rences which gave birth to the Peninsular war by an introductory view of the state of Portugal and Spain, of France and of England. The abyss of moral and political degradation into which a long course of blind superstition and misgovernment had plunged the two monarchies of the Peninsula, is depicted with great power and extensive information. After rapidly tracing the career of weakness and shame which, in the first years of the present century, placed the feeble cabinets of Lisbon and Madrid in a state of mean subserviency to France; he offers a concise and lucid retrospect of the origin and progress of the French Revolution, and of the tremendous results which it had already produced on the condition of the world, when, in 1807, Napoleon Buonaparte, in the zenith of his power, and with the continent of Europe at his feet, entered on his project for the complete subjugation of the Peninsula.

Treacherous and wicked in conception, and in execution, as was this enterprize, the impolicy and vain-glorious folly which dictated it were scarcely less remarkable than its atrocity. Already holding both the governments of the Peninsula in submission, Buonaparte had really nothing left to gain; the wealth of South America flowed, through their hands, into his coffers, and the internal resources of Spain in men and materiel were equally at his disposal. But his arrogant and insatiable ambition could not rest without grasping at the shadow as well as the substance of power. It was not enough that he effectually and absolutely dictated all the measures of Spain, unless he could gratify an insolent vanity by seating himself, or the puppet of his creation, on the throne of her ancient monarchs.

His first measure on entering on this career of iniquity, was to render the cupidity of Godoy instrumental to its success. That upstart, who was at once the paramour of the Spanish queen and the possessor of her husband's friendship and confidence, had raised himself to the absolute command of the kingdom. His profligacy and avarice were unbounded, and equally notorious with the utter incapacity which distinguished his political conduct. The terms of the treaty of Basle, negociated by him with France, though they procured from his feeble sovereign the title (by which he became afterwards more disgracefully known) of Prince of the Peace,— had evinced his ignorance of the interests, and his insensibility to the honour of the country. When Buonaparte determined to make the seizure and nominal partition of Portugal the prelude to his occupation of Spain, he easily secured the aid of the Spanish court by bribing the minion who swayed it, with the hope of participation in the spoil. We are disposed to believe, with Mr. Southey, that, loudly as the contrary opinion was afterwards asserted, Godoy was not directly corrupted by Buonaparte to abet his designs

D 4 against against Spain itself; for, supreme as he already was in the government of that degraded country, it is difficult to conceive by what price the French despot could have hoped to tempt him to a service that would necessarily involve the destruction of the power which he enjoyed. It would rather appear that he was a dupe than a traitor. But the basest treason in Godoy could not have suited the purposes of Buonaparte more effectually than the eagerness with which he fell into the snare of the treaty of Fontainebleau. By this nefarious instrument of partition, which was carried on with a secrecy worthy of the transaction, Portugal was divided into three portions; its northern provinces were allotted to the boy-king of Etruria, in exchange for his Italian possessions, which were to be forcibly ceded to Buonaparte; the centre division was to be held in sequestration by the French until a general peace should determine its fate; and the southern portion was destined to form a principality for Godoy under the investiture of the Spanish monarch. Such were the nominal provisions which formed the pretext for a secret convention, whereby 28,000 French troops were to traverse the Peninsula, and occupy Lisbon and the central parts of Portugal, while 27,000 Spaniards should co-operate with them, and take possession of the rest of the kingdom. A second French army, of 40,000 men, was to assemble at Bayonne, in readiness to support the first, in case the English should succour Portugal; but not to cross the Pyrennees until the contracting parties should come to an agreement on that point.

Buonaparte had thus gained the most important preliminary to his atrocious measures—the power of marching one army into the Peninsula without opposition, and of collecting a second on the frontier to support the first. He was not slow in using his ad' vantages. He had already diminished the means of resistance possessed by the Spanish government, by demanding of it the contingent of troops, stipulated under the provisions of the alliance, offensive and defensive, which Godoy had contracted with France after the peace of Basle. His requisition had been complied with; 16,000 of the flower of the Spanish army had been sent to the north of Germany, and another division to Tuscany: there was now apparently nothing to oppose him. Spain, robbed of great part of its troops, was doubly defenceless in the imbecility of a government which lent itself to its own destruction; and Portugal, which had for years drained its resources to answer his exactions, sub' mitted to reiterated insults which it dared not resent, and incurred the shame of paying tribute without obtaining the security of a tributary state, was now ready to fill up the measure of its humiliation by declaring war against the most ancient of its allies, at the insolent command of an imperious oppressor. But even this last

prostration prostration to his tyranny was unavailing; he had fixed his purpose; and his troops, carrying, as usual, rapine and horror and desolation in their train, had crossed the Pyrennees, and even penetrated, under Junot, into the heart of Portugal, before the court of Lisbon had resigned all hopes of preserving the country from invasion by total submission. To throw themselves upon the protection of the ally whom they had renounced, and to seek an asylum in the Brazils, were the only means by which the royal family of Portugal could escape from the grasp of the tyrant. The circumstances of their emigration are narrated by our historian with such singular animation and eloquence that we must give them in his own words.

'The royal family had for some time past resided at Mafra; as soon as the emigration had been determined, they removed to Queluz, where they might be nearer the Tagus, and less exposed to any sudden attempt of the enemy. The Portugueze navy was ill equipped for sea; no care had been taken to keep it victualled, and it was now found that many of the water casks were rotten, and new ones were to be made. The morning of the 27th had been fixed for the embarkation, and at an early hour numbers of both sexes and of all ages were assembled in the streets and upon the shore at Belem, where the wide space between the river and the fine Jeronymite convent was filled with carts and packages of every kind. From the restlessness and well-founded alarm of the people, it was feared that they would proceed to some excess of violence against those who were the objects of general suspicion. The crowd however was not yet very great when the prince appeared, both because of the distance from Lisbon, and that the hour of the embarkation was not known. He came from the Ajuda, and the Spanish Infante D. Pedro in the carriage with him; the troops who were to be on duty at the spot had not yet arrived, and when the prince alighted upon the quay, there was a pressure round him, so that as he went down the steps to the water-edge, he was obliged to make way with his hand. He was pale and trembling, and his face was bathed in tears. The multitude forgot for a moment their own condition in commiseration for his; they wept also, and followed him, as the boat pushed off, with their blessings. There may have been some among the spectators who remembered that from this very spot Vasco de Gamahad embarked for that discovery which opened the way to all their conquests in the east; and Cabral for that expedition which gave to Portugal an empire in the west, and prepared for her prince an asylum now when the mother country itself was lost.

'A spectacle not less impressive presented itself when the royal family arrived from Queluz. The insane queen was in the first carriage; for sixteen years she had never been seen in public. It is said that she had been made to understand the situation of affairs, so as to acquiescein what was done; and that when she perceived the coachman was driving fast, she called out to him to go leisurely, for she was not taking flight. She had to wait some while upon the quay for the chair in


« AnteriorContinuar »